Sharing seems to be in with the economic crisis hitting us where it hurts. In our stomachs in restaurants where sharing, nothing new, seems to be a practical idea.
Some foods are a natural for sharing such as French fries. There's nothing like a crispy plateful among friends. It is perfectly acceptable to eat French fries with your fingers. However, digging through the pile in search of the perfect fry isn't. The one you touch first is the one you eat. Most restaurants will give each diner a small plate. This should be used to put on individual helpings of ketchup. It's probably one of the rare occasions wherein you can double dip with gusto. If the idea of someone taking a fry off the plate with their hands is uncomfortable, take a few with a fork off the plate without making a fuss. You can say, "I'm just having a few, you can have the rest."
Sometimes it's fun to order different foods at a restaurant to get a taste of this and that a la Chinese but not in a Chinese restaurant. This can be a mess if there aren't any smaller plates on the table onto which you can put a sampling of someone else's entree. A piece of flaky fish may not make it from one plate to another. A crab cake could work or a slice of meat or a chicken leg may travel better. Unless you're a food critic, plates shouldn't take table tours.
We've all seen one person digging into another's plate without asking permission. Maybe none is needed if you're close enough to the person but it's probably not an example of well mannered dining.
Soup just doesn't work when it comes to sharing. No matter how delicious it is, don't offer a taste. Good friends and loved ones have germs too. And somehow slurping already slurped soup isn't appetizing. The same goes for a salad. There's nothing wrong with sharing an abundant one but not from the same plate. Put it on a separate one and this way you get to choose your dressing. Maybe you don't like creamy Ranch.
Calamari is another good sharing food. Some like to dip it in a sauce, (This isn't done in Italy, you ask for a dipping sauce there and they will look at you with great disdain and mumble how Americans don't know how to eat.) others like to squeeze lemon over them. If you don't mind several dippers in the same small bowl of sauce, enjoy. Fortunately, calamari is a one bite food so the sauce should remain 'clean'. If you want to have some with lemon, take a few off with a clean fork off the main plate, put it on another plate and go for it. Just try to remember to leave some for the others.
Restaurants make sure that there's enough bread for each person. When taking a roll from the bread basket, take the whole roll. You can tear off a piece any way you want once it's on your bread plate. Never put it back in the basket. Imagine, you're fresh from a New York subway ride, didn't think to wash your hands and now you're in the bread basket. You see where we're going?
Our friend in Chicago asks, "What do you do if someone accidentally drinks your drink or wants you to taste what they're drinking?"
We think the best way to handle the first situation is not to point it out and if you can, get a fresh drink. Don't make the accidental drinker feel badly. Don't say a word. If someone is insisting that you take a swig of their cocktail, that's up to you. If you're uncomfortable, you can point out that you're getting over a cold. A germy laden excuse is always convincing.
What do you think? Feel free to share, please.